Lenovo ThinkPad Helix review

25 Jul 2013

Lenovo asserts its mastery of the Windows 8 hybrid with the ThinkPad Helix, but it comes at a cost

Price when reviewed: 
1,769(£1,770 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
4

While most Windows 8 hybrids have sought to capture everyone’s attention, Lenovo’s ThinkPad Helix is happy to appeal to a more select audience: it’s the first one to take aim at the business user. With the body of an 11.6in tablet, the heart of an Ultrabook and a nifty keyboard dock, the Helix is Lenovo’s vision of a hybrid that’s destined for the boardroom.

At first glance, there’s no mistaking the Helix for anything but a traditional ThinkPad. It’s hewn from a slab of matte black, interrupted only by the occasional logo. There’s just the faintest hint of silver glitter in the matte finish, but with delicately tapered edges and a soft-touch rubberised feel to every inch of the chassis, this business-focused machine doesn’t draw attention to itself.

Business hardware is often synonymous with dull and boring design, but someone clearly didn’t tell the designers of the ThinkPad Helix. It isn’t as slender as Lenovo’s gorgeous ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but there’s a good reason for it: the Helix is actually a self-sufficient 11.6in tablet seamlessly mated to a keyboard dock.

The tablet itself weighs 848g – a little less than the 904g of Microsoft’s Surface Pro – and the keyboard adds another 822g to the total. That sounds a bit much, but it crams a lot in, adding an extra battery, a couple of USB 3 ports and a mini-DisplayPort output.

Features and design

With the tablet slotted in place, the Helix masquerades as an alluring 11.6in laptop. The full-sized keyboard lacks depth compared to the best ThinkPads, but it’s quite capable. The subtly scooped-out profile of the Scrabble-tile keys grips the finger, and the wide channels separating the keys make it easy to build up a rapid touch-typing cadence. Needless to say, it’s far superior to the Type Cover of the Microsoft Surface Pro.

The classic red trackpoint is set adrift in the keyboard’s centre, and there’s a huge, buttonless touchpad beneath. The only departure from standard ThinkPads concerns the trackpoint’s buttons, which are actually built into the top of the touchpad. Both work well, though, and as the touchpad is almost perfectly flush with the wristrest, Windows 8’s edge-swipes respond reliably to light flicks of the finger.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

In laptop mode, the Helix’s display has a very limited amount of backward tilt, which leaves the display at a rather steep angle. It’s a compromise Lenovo has had to make to stop the Helix toppling backwards, whether on a desk or a lap – where it’s essential to gently counterbalance the tablet’s weight with your wrists – but it’s far from unworkable.

We had little trouble tapping out emails and reviews with the Helix sitting on our lap on a packed train or tube carriage – it’s certainly far more usable than the Surface Pro while out and about. Also, when you’ve finished working, you can flip the tablet around and dock it backwards, turning the keyboard base into an adjustable stand.

If you depress the small latch on the bottom left of the hinge, the tablet separates from the keyboard. Visually, it’s as plain and ordinary as tablets come, but it feels reassuringly sturdy, and it’s well appointed with features. Along the bottom edge, there’s a power input, a docking connector, a SIM card slot for the integrated 3G, a USB 3 port and a mini-DisplayPort output.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,474
Price inc VAT £1,769
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 3 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 296 x 187 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 1.670kg
Travelling weight 2.0kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3667U
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3L
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 0

Screen and video

Screen size 11.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 180GB
Spindle speed N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint, touchscreen
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
TPM yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 6hr 47min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.64
Responsiveness score 0.76
Media score 0.70
Multitasking score 0.47

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
OS family Windows 8

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